Getting pulled over while driving is an intimidating experience. The police officer is in a position of power. You don’t want to make things worse for yourself by being uncooperative or argumentative, but at the same time, you shouldn’t give up your rights. The less information you give the police, the better.
One source of confusion during traffic stops is field sobriety tests. Police use these tests to help determine if there are grounds for a DUI arrest. The most common tests include:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test, where the officer asks you to follow a pen or light with your eyes
- Walk and turn test, also called walking the line
- One-leg stand test
- Preliminary breath test
Here are three important things to know about these tests.
1. You can refuse to perform field sobriety tests.
There are no penalties in Illinois for refusing to participate in field sobriety testing, including preliminary breath tests. Politely tell the officer that you are exercising your right to refuse. Even if they still arrest you, they will have less evidence to use against you and fewer grounds to support the arrest. That means your lawyer will have more options for challenging the DUI.
It’s important to note that if you are still arrested, you won’t have the right to refuse a Breathalyzer or blood test at the police station. Refusing those tests will result in criminal penalties and the loss of your driver’s license.
2. They’re often inaccurate.
Field sobriety tests aren’t anywhere near as accurate as official breath and blood tests. If you’re tired, on prescription medication or have certain medical conditions, you might perform poorly on the field sobriety tests. Likewise, if the police officer improperly administers the test, that could skew the results.
3. Even if you pass the field sobriety tests, you could still face arrest.
Police may use other grounds – such as their observations of your driving behavior or your responses to questioning – to justify an arrest, even if you pass the field sobriety tests.
In sum, there is no benefit to submitting to field sobriety testing. It’s not mandatory, and it’s not worth the risk of giving the police evidence to use against you.